Proper and timely Justice is one of the human rights which every citizen must enjoy as stipulated in the constitution of Malawi and this right can only be enjoyed if people have access to judicial services.
However, there are a number of areas in the country where people are still failing to access proper and timely justice because the areas have no competent courts of law and it’s only when they sacrifice themselves to travel a very long distance to seek the services.
One such area is the area of Senior Chief Mabuka in Mulanje District which at one time had a court, known as Milonde, but due to some undisclosed reasons the facility stopped its operations about 10 years ago.
The closure of the court has affected about 16 areas of group village headmen under Traditional Authority Mabuka which among others include Mphusu, Chimwaza, Nsona and Misanjo.
People who were benefiting from Milonde court are now travelling a very long distance to Mulanje Magistrate’s Court, which is at a distance of about 20 kilometers from where Milonde court was operating to seek judicial services and they have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for transport which ranges from K3,000 to K3,500.
A recent visit to the area by YFM found that a lot of people especially women are the primary victims of the situation.
Bertha Benadi from Group Village headman (GVH) Mabuka said the long distance is a burden to the women.
Benadi said: “It’s so sad to see women travelling a very long distance to seek judicial services and sometimes it even takes more than a month before being assisted and sometimes we find that the magistrate is not available which is a total waste of time and money.”
Another woman, woman Ida Mbewe concurred with Benadi saying in 2016 they were relieved to see people renovating the court structure but up to date the court remains closed.
Shadreck Malola from Bwanali village, GVH Misanjo, said people from the affected areas are wasting more money and that would have been used to feed their families and for farming respectively.
Hefurther said the development has paused a threat to the people in different ways.
“Sometimes people choose to take the law into their own hands by punishing those who have offended them because they can’t manage to travel such a long distance to the magistrate’s court to settle their cases,” bemoaned Malola.
Senior Chief Mabuka, the custodian of the area, concurred with his subjects saying since the death of a Mr. Mangasanja, who was the presiding magistrate assigned to that court, government has never assigned another magistrate to replace him.
Senior Chief Mabuka, who couldn’t recall the exact year when the court stopped its operations, further said together with his subjects are facing a lot of challenges and called on authorities to come to their rescue.
“As a chief am not happy with this development just like my subjects. Most of the times the magistrate is overloaded with the cases to handle so most cases are delayed or completely forgotten and my people usually complain that they are not adequately assisted,” he lamented.
He further bemoaned that despite his traditional court handling cases in the area, but there are some cases which are beyond his jurisdiction and they need to be referred to the magistrate’s court.
He cited cases like marriage divorces, assault, and murder, among others.
Apart from the situation having a negative impact on civilians in the area, police who are also involved in court processes, have been affected.
Mulanje police spokesperson, Sub-inspector, Grecium Ngwira said the absence of the court has put a burden on their work and is delaying people from accessing proper and timely justice.
“The duty of ensuring that people have access to justice requires the involvement of different stake holders and if one of them is missing on the chain then it becomes a problem hence in this case the absence of the court in question has affected both the people and our operations as the law enforcers,” he said.
Sub Inspector Ngwira further revealed that the area usually registers high cases of assault and defilement that require to be handled by the competent court of law.
Mulanje District Courts Administrator Morgun Numero admitted that the absence of Milonde court has piled pressure on Mulanje magistrates’ court saying out of 10 cases registered, 7 are from the area in question.
“Basically the absence of the court has greatly affected the ability and functions of the judiciary in the district as the only court which is in operation is handling more cases than required,” he said.
However, Numero said despite the challenge his department is putting all effort in ensuring that people are properly assisted.
As the saying goes; justice delayed is justice denied and this is a clear indication of what people from the area of Traditional Authority Mabuka are experiencing.
They have waited for close to 10 years to have judicial services in their area, but their right has long been denied and there is no any immediate hope that these communities may enjoy their judicial rights just like any other citizen.